Malala Yousafzai simply wanted to get an education like her male counterparts. While some her age would be content to sit at home and play video games, surf the Internet or play a sport, Malala wanted to make sure she, and other girls in her country, received the education required to be a successful, productive adult. In most parts of the world, the desire to go to school is anything but outlandish, but in Malala's home country of Pakistan, it was appalling to some.
In January of 2009, Malala began blogging for the BBC
. She wrote under the pseudonym Gul Makai, hoping to alleviate at least some of the danger associated with speaking out about the Taliban's ban on girls attending school. In a 2009 blog post, entitled "I Am Afraid", she says
"I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you’. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone."
At the tender age of 11-years-old, despite the very real danger to her life, Malala continued to write about her desire to attend school, along with her fear of being targeted. Malala's diaries were published for 10 weeks before stopping in May 2009. It was then that she and her family left Pakistan's Swat valley because of the planned launch of a military operation.
When the Pakistani army regained control of Swat a few months later, Malala and her family returned to their home. She began appearing on Pakistani television, here her true identity was revealed. She received a national peace prize award from the Pakistani government, was nominated for international awards and made several public appearances, championing the rights or girls to receive an education. She began to receive international recognition as well, being featured in a New York Times documentary.
Although the Taliban had blown up as many as a hundred girls’ schools across Pakistan, Malala continued her crusade for girls' education rights. Even when faced with increasing threats of assassination by the Taliban, she never lost focus or courage, telling the New Yorker
"I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right."
On October 9th of this year, Malala paid for her "crime". As was reported by Digital Journal
, Malala was shot in the head and neck by members of the Taliban while she and other students sat on their school bus waiting to return home from classes. Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, explained the reason why Malala was targeted, saying
"She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader. She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas."
Malala survived the execution style shooting, being flown to a U.K. hospital for treatment. According to a Digital Journal report
, Malala received a security detail to protect her after the Taliban threatened to attack her again should she survive.
Over the course of the next several weeks, Malala continued to improve, proving that her will to survive was just as strong as her desire for an education. In November, her father told reporters
"She is recovering at an encouraging speed and we are very happy."
Malala's courage has proved to be an inspiration around the world. On November 8th of this year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared Novermber 10th as "Malala Day". Digital Journal reported
that "Malala Day" was celebrated around the globe, with former U.K. Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown writing
"The right to education is denied to 61 million children of primary school age around the world. Girls, boys, the marginalized, rural children, child laborers -- the hopes of these 61 million are represented by the struggle and voice of Malala. November 10th is our opportunity to continue to speak out in support of Malala's vision of every child in school, learning and reaching their full potential."
It is due to Malala's struggle, her courage, determination and perseverance, along with the impact she has had on so many across the world that, regardless of age, makes her this year's Person of the Year.